In a world that’s increasingly focused on efficiency, sensibility, and moving away from driving all together, there’s one brand that’s seemingly moving in the opposite direction. Instead of working to create a diverse lineup of cars for every sensibility, Dodge has whittled away their offerings to just five vehicles. Of those five, the Durango and the Charger are the newest, entering their current generation back in 2011, while the rest of their offerings date back to 2008.
Yet, their lineup still manages to sell well, despite their long neglected platforms, for two reasons. The first applies to the Dodge Journey midsize crossover SUV and Grand Caravan Minivan; they’re significantly cheaper than the competition, even if they aren’t nearly as competitive in terms of features, fuel economy, and design. The second reason applies to the Charger, Challenger, and Durango; Dodge has turned all three of those vehicles into bona fide muscle cars that capture the imagination of American shoppers.
Take the Challenger for example, which since its release in 2008, was always intended to be a muscle car. It was initially offered with a 250 horsepower V6 in base models, an SRT8 version with a 6.1-liter V8 with 425 horsepower, and the addition of a 5.7-liter V8 with 375 horsepower in the R/T trim a year later. By 2011, the base V6 had swapped out for a slightly bigger one with 305 horsepower and the SRT8 received a bigger 6.4-liter V8 with 475 horsepower.
In 2015, the Challenger underwent a facelift and the power creep was supercharged. The SRT8 was renamed the SRT 392 and received a 15 horsepower bump, while the infamous SRT Hellcat trim was added to the top of the lineup. The Hellcat featured a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 707 horsepower, the most ever offered on a mass-production vehicle.
The power of the Hellcat is tremendous, but it’s also accessible in more ways than one. Despite the insane power, the Challenger Hellcat remains entirely easy to drive at legal speeds, while the base price of less than $60,000 makes it possible for a wide swath of new people to access this kind of power. Muscle cars have always been about making speed attainable to the masses, and Dodge managed to hit the bullseye in this regard.
These days, the Challenger is offered with five different engine choices, four of which feature eight cylinders. There are now two mid-level RT trims with massive V8s, while a new Hellcat trim was added with a whopping 797 horsepower. However, this isn’t the peak of the Challenger’s power, which was reached with the 808 horsepower SRT Demon that was sold only for the 2018 model year.
The Charger has seen similar increases of power over the years, from the SRT8 in its early years to the current inclusion of the Hellcat engine, which makes it one of the few four-door sedans capable of exceeding 200 mph. Like the Challenger, the Hellcat also features a large V6 for the base model and a pair of V8s to make up the mid-tier trims.
And now, it’s the Durango’s turn for the muscle car treatment. Dodge has sold the Durango with a 5.7-liter V8 since 2011 in a sporty R/T trim, but in 2018 they released an SRT trim with their 475 horsepower 6.4-liter V8 used in the Charger and Challenger allowing it to hit 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. If that wasn’t enough, Dodge is now teasing that a Hellcat version of the Durango will likely be released at the 2020 New York Auto Show in April.
Instead of updating these ancient platforms, Dodge has found a way to keep them relevant through minor redesigns over the past decade. These redesigns have updated the interiors, reworked front and rear fascias, updated infotainment systems, but most importantly they’ve added more and more power, making them even more compelling.
Furthermore, the fact that these “muscle cars” continue to sell well shows there’s still a sizable portion of the population who are interested in old school performance. Despite the popularity electric cars, plug in hybrids, and semi-autonomous driving aids, some people still want to just go fast, make noise, and destroy tires. It’s a good thing Dodge is still out there making these sorts of vehicles, when every other brand has seemingly moved on.